Like Kali, Durga, in her various manifestations, also slew demons and eradicated evil but unlike Kali’s ferocious and repulsive appearance and violent ways Durga is always conceived with benignity, feminine softness and with a blissful gesture imparting ‘abhaya’ – a posture granting freedom from fear. The Mari-Amma transform of Durga is also conceived with the same benign look and feminine softness as her ante-model Durga. This image of Mari-Amma in ‘lalitasana’, her right leg laid suspending down to her lotus seat, while the left, horizontally over it in semi-yogasana position, a seating posture revealing great aesthetic charm and unparalleled beauty, represents the goddess as the model of absolute beauty, though for symbolising her evil-eliminating role she has been represented carrying instruments of war, as also the flames of fire on one of her palms, and around the base of her pedestal, with a human bust, a form of Shiva himself, or one of Apasmarapurusha – the demon of inertia. ‘Lalitasana’ is considered in Indian classical iconography as the posture revealing beauty and ease.
A sharp nose, lotus petals’ like eyes in meditative posture, rounded prominent cheeks and slightly pointed chin, forehead with a lamp’s flame-like auspicious mark, hair falling on shoulders, well defined lips and ears, all elegantly crafted, characterise the iconography of the goddess. With a subdued belly, broad shoulders, sensuously modeled breasts and a balanced body-structure the figure of the goddess has been brilliantly modeled. The six-armed Mari-Amma carries in her upper right hand a damaru – small two-way drum, held in the coils of a snake, and in the left, a trident. In her middle right hand she is carrying a shûla – a rod with a pointed blade, and on the left hand palm, flames of fire. In her lower right hand she is holding another shûla, and in the left, a shield. Her figure, resplendent with brilliant jewels and ornaments, has been adorned with a seven-tiered towering crown, conceived in South Indian iconographic fashion. She is wearing an ‘antariya’ covering her body below her waist and a stan-pata designed with two large flower motifs for covering her modeled breasts. An ornamented narrow frill, conceived as a beautiful garland – a brilliant component of her iconography, lies over her breast and belly and down to the base of her seat.
The figure of the goddess has been installed on a large double lotus comprising her seat. It has been laid on an elevated hexagonal base comprising variously patterned flower-motifs. This base has been conceived as a mini architectural unit with artistically crafted ornamental half columns on sides giving the whole structure the shape of a sanctum-throne enshrining divine icons. It consecrates in its centre the lotus-seat which the image of Mari-Amma enshrines. On these column rises a circular ‘prabhavali’ which looks more like a large halo. Its three inner rings consist of beads, while the outermost, of blue lotuses framed within rings of vine with buds but without leaves. The ‘prabhavali’ is topped by a ‘kirtimukha’ motif, a characteristic feature of South Indian sculptural art and iconography. The most strange feature of this wood sculpture is the flames-like looking green halo behind the head of the goddess. On one hand it symbolises with its flames-like form her inherent cosmic energy, while with its colour – green, fertility, suggesting that energy is inherently creative and Durga or Mari-Amma is the epitome of the principle.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain
specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of
numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the
curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New
Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of
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